By Mitalee Kurdekar
Building vertical cities in the form of high-rise buildings is no more a luxury, but has come to be a requirement of our times. The need for optimal utilisation of scarce urban space means that vertical cities are here to stay, necessitating a change in approach on the part of all stakeholders engaged in high-rise building activities.
The need of the hour, on the part of developers, product and service vendors, as well as ultimate users, is to demonstrate greater awareness of potential issues involved in high-rise construction, and then conduct appropriate due diligence. It is interesting to note how innovative ideas flow from collaborative engagement, resulting in the emergence of new thinking and solutions.
Developers have demonstrated a clarity in their preference for high-rise construction, which makes life simpler for other stakeholders, who can then align their research and development efforts and channel them in this direction. Speaking on the subject, Raman Sapru, president, EPC, Omkar Realtors & Developers, says, “New technologies, cost-effective construction and affordability, have created the spurt in demand for high-rises in metros. In case of tier-II cities, the key drivers are the movement of people from metros to these cities and the owning cost. Increase in competition has made developers offer attractive schemes and better amenities to the purchasers. This has created demand for high-rises in both metros and tier-II cities.”
Alluding to this relatively new phenomenon of focussing on tier-II cities, Nagaraju Routhu, CEO, Hero Realty, explains, “High-rise buildings are not just about optimising the use of limited land, but they also provide more living space in a lesser area and cost, with residents getting all the benefits of community living. Developers are now more aware and specific about constructing eco-friendly buildings, and providing world-class facilities/ services to their customers at very reasonable rates.”
Tall structures provide a great potential to avoid congested clusters in an urban environment. Acknowledging the value of green spaces and healthy living, Farshid Cooper, MD, Spenta Corporation, states, “Several developers opt for high-rises because that allows them to free up more land area for amenities and green spaces. Further, high-rise developments give off the impression of luxury, thereby making selling and marketing properties easier.” With new laws and regulatory bodies like RERA coming in, developers have to freeze their building plans much in advance to seek approvals, besides having to provide adequate details to their customers on plans, amenities and other safety features. RERA does not allow further changes unless approved as per regulations prescribed. As a result, the quality of construction is bound to be maintained.
Challenges on the Rise
Undoubtedly the biggest challenge encountered in constructing high-rises is assessing all the requirements well in advance, and working out an integrated development plan. With so many activities demanding on scarce resources of money and manpower, a well-developed plan goes a long way in achieving successful implementation.
Kishore Mane, project manager, Sumer Group, suggests, “The requirements or specifications with regard to product or material to be used are finalised before the commencement of building construction. Compared to low-rise construction, the requirements of material standards, their durability, mechanised material handling systems and longer-term view on maintenance for high-rises are all unique.”
The absence of established building codes is yet another challenge when one views the safety and environmental needs that such buildings would have. Amit Ruparel, MD, Ruparel Realty, says, “Buildings consume a massive amount of resources and are a great strain on both the immediate and global environment. Hence, in order to ensure environmental safety, it is important to take steps towards building a structure that has a greater shelf-life, one that will be relevant to the present as well as to future generations. There should be strict rules laid for real estate developers and contractors to elucidate if they are complying with quality construction standards.”
Of course, cost remains another challenge. It is much more expensive to make skyscrapers owing to the use of new, light-weight composite materials; precast fabrication; and other considerations on safety and environmental requirements. But with land cost getting spread over, developers can remain competitive despite this.
Devidas Kulkarni, CEO, building technologies division, Siemens India, has an interesting observation. He points out, “Analyses show that 80% of the total cost of buildings arise from operations. Customers can either spend initially on advanced technologies that reduce operating costs or later spend on operating costs that keep on increasing year-on-year.”
Vincent Pinto, senior VP, new installation business, Schindler India, agrees that, “Newer technologies are generally associated with higher costs, but that is not always true. Most of the new generation technologies aim to reduce customer costs, either tangibly or intangibly, in the short- or long-run.”
With huge investment to make, the developer has a challenge to keep the gestation time to the minimum possible. Cooper says, “The challenge with building high-rises for a developer is often time to completion. The use of different construction techniques including aluminium shuttering, jump form, slip form, tunnel form, etc. reduce time of construction and improve quality of the finished product.”
Speaking of products, they is a great deal of expectation from those used in high-rises. Amit Gossain, MD, KONE Elevator India, points out, “High-rise elevator components operate under highly demanding conditions, making durability a huge challenge, and subjecting the elevator to huge strain such as building sway, which can put them out of service on windy days. A revolutionary breakthrough is required if the needs of urban environments are to be met.”
Developers, products vendors and service providers have found innovative ways to deal with the challenges posed. Thus, whether it is coping with gravitational challenges or decongesting operational areas, or ensuring safety, every new product introduced has been pioneering in its own right.
Explaining his company’s strategy, Bharat Vishnani, MD, thyssenkrupp Elevator India, says, “Our high-end elevator, HP61, is built for high-rise commercial buildings. With its high-speed feature and small machine room, it is suitable for managing high traffic flows in high-end office buildings and hotels.” In addition, they recently launched a smart elevator, the Microsoft Azure IoT-enabled MAX, to increase transport capacities in buildings.
Explaining how the Indian consumer is benefitting from global innovations even in areas like water supply and pumping, Ranganath NK, MD, Grundfos Pumps India, claims, “Our MAGNA3 circulator, which is one of our most efficient, futuristic ranges of circulator pumps, comes with the Grundfos-invented intelligent control mode AUTOADAPT. It continuously adjusts the proportional pressure curve and automatically sets a more efficient one, without compromising on comfort demands.”
Explaining their futuristic view on using an integrated platform for managing high-rises, Ashish Shah, COO, Radius Developers, confesses, “We have found that collaborating within a common shared platform like Building Information Management (BIM) is truly transformative. Think of BIM like a central database of all your building’s information. By sharing a common platform, each member of the design team can see what other teams are working on, can visualise their intent, and can tweak their own work to align with others.”
On the other hand, Sandeep Shukla, head of communications and marketing, Jaquar India, highlights how the sanitary ware industry too is contributing to the cause. Jaquar Group caters to various segments, with the Artize brand for the luxury segment, Jaquar brand for the premium segment, and Essco brand for the value segment. Shukla says, “Hi-flow thermostat is one of our latest offerings, which allows the consumer to enjoy a hot shower even in low-pressure conditions, making it apt for Indian conditions.”
Speaking of working conditions, the Schwing-XCMG tower crane can withstand extreme conditions at construction sites and is designed with several features to handle high-rise projects. “We are proud that a few of the highest buildings in the world have employed Schwing’s products for their construction, including the Freedom Tower, Taipei 101 and, in Mumbai, high-rise projects such as Ahuja Towers, Omkar 1973, Kohinoor Square, etc.,” states VG Sakthikumar, MD, Schwing Stetter Sales and Services.
Many of these innovations are enhanced with digital platforms. Sebi Joseph, president, Otis India, proclaims that, “We think the next developments in elevator technology leverage digitalisation. Existing Otis technologies such as the Compass Destination Management System, which constantly evaluates real-time passenger traffic to improve flow and travel time in busy mid- and high-rise buildings, are the start of this trend.”
While vendors are offering value in the form of the latest product designs, technologies and solutions, developers are encouraging them by incorporating the same rather quickly, making for some true masterpieces when it comes to India’s modern high-rises.